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3 Reasons Why You Are Not Getting Stronger

“I haven’t come across anything yet that can’t be cured by getting stronger.”

I came across this quote in a blog that Tony Gentilcore wrote.

As someone who has worked in both the rehab setting and health and fitness, this quote stuck out to me.

There is nothing that can go wrong if you gain some strength. If you are an athlete, you will jump higher, run faster, and just be a force to be reckoned with on the field no matter what sport you play.

If you are the average gym goer (men or women), then getting stronger will have lots of benefits as well. If you play recreational sports like basketball, tennis, softball, or laser tag increased strength will improve your play there and also those of you that are aesthetically minded as well.

BTW: If you’re in a laser tag league, we needed to hang out yesterday.

Getting stronger usually equates to having more muscle mass. A guy who can deadlift 3x their body weight isn’t getting blown around by a strong breeze. And a woman who can do a chin up isn’t working with a lot of body fat that they need to rid of.

More muscle mass typically means less fat mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat so your resting metabolism will be higher with more muscle as compared to having more fat mass.

Plus, getting stronger decreases your risk of injury. Your muscles are consistently being exposed to stress and strain through exercise that the strain during sport would have to be pretty high for injury. Of course not for all cases, but being stronger to help control your body is always a positive.

And who can deny the fact that being stronger is going to allow you to survive longer during a zombie apocalypse.

via GIPHY

So what are some reasons that could be hindering someone being able to gain strength?

Avoiding the obvious reasons like not reaching progressive overload, binge watching Netflix, or taking kettlebell swing advice from Jillian Michaels I will cover some of the not-so-obvious factors.

1. Recovery

This is number one because

  1. Yes, it’s that important.
  2. It’s rather boring to talk about, but cannot be forgotten.

“You’re only as strong as how well you allow yourself to recover.”

Physiologically, during a workout you are breaking down tissues and creating fatigue. This is required in order to be able to gain strength and muscle. But no matter how hard your workouts are, what pre and post workout drinks and shakes you are eating, or how many calories your FitBit is telling you that you burned during the day is not going to allow progress.

There are several different ways to help improve your recovery. It’s making sure that you are staying hydrated, maintaining a good, quality nutrition plan, being diligent with soft tissue work like foam rolling and massages, and just going the fuck asleep.

Samual L. Jackson does the audible version of this. Please enjoy this glorious bedtime tale here.

I have had several talks with high school athletes about their sleeping habits. Catching some quality Z’s at night instead of staying up till 2 am playing Fortnite or swiping left or right on Tinder should become a priority. If you actually get to bed at a consistent time every night then you will for sure feel a lot more refreshed with improved performance in the gym and in their sport.

But this doesn’t only apply to kids.

Adults struggle with this as well. With everything readily available to us on our phones and tablets it’s easy to get caught mindlessly scrolling through Instagram for an hour plus in bed. Not only are the brightness of the screens causing people to have trouble sleeping, but not having a routine to wind down to prepare your body to go to sleep is sadly under appreciated.

I have a bedtime routine that I try to do every night. Just like you, I am a human being and struggle with many of the same things that you do. But I try to climb into bed at the same time every night. The first thing after I lie down is write down three things that went well for me today and one thing that I can improve upon. After that, I open up a book and before you know it I’m out like a light. A consistent routine tells my body that it’s time to sleep. And when I miss days that I don’t do this routine I can tell a difference the next day.

So, long story short GO TO BED!

Also, don’t get your panties in a bunch if you miss a workout or two. You are not going to lose the muscle that you gained or add 5 pounds overnight. It’ll actually do your body some good to take a couple days off.

2. You’re Lifting Heavy Things Too Often

I promise I am not off my rocker with this, but hear me out.

Coach Greg Robins over at The Strength House has a quote that I think many bros could benefit from.

“Far too many people are concerned with constantly testing their strength rather than building it.”

Ask yourself when was the last time that you tested your 1 rep max.

You ask some people and they are going to say yesterday. And the time before that, last week. And the time before that, a week prior to that. And it goes on and on and on.

It is important to train in the 80-95% of your 1 rep max from time to time. It has many great benefits like:

  1. Maximal motor units recruited
  2. Fastest motor units are activated
  3. Discharge frequency is increased
  4. Inter and intra muscle coordination activity is synchronous
  5. The potential for muscle hypertrophy gains
  6. And girls want to go out with you (<—- cutting edge science).

Again, training at a very high intensity is important. But the frequency is not nearly as often needed as one might think.

I have heard coaches who test their athletes 1 rep maxes only once per year.

The majority of your workouts are going to be done in a sub-maximal state. Training in a sub-max intensity is going to allow you to focus on your technique to help you use your strength more effectively so you can build a much larger base of strength.

3. Making Stuff Harder For The Sake Of Making It Harder

Luckily, I don’t have to go train in a commercial gym because I sometimes felt that I had to bash my head against a brick wall with peoples exercise selection.

With tons of fitness Instagram accounts out there with people doing insane and stupid shit because it looks cool doesn’t mean that you have to try it.

Barbell bicep curls while single leg squatting on a BOSU ball?

via GIPHY

The basics are going to get the job done. You don’t need to make an exercise harder because it makes you sweat more and makes you more sore.

Making an exercise more complicated probably isn’t going to do anything more for you. I would argue that you are increasing your risk of injury more than anything.

When I write a program there has to be a rhyme and reason for every exercise that I choose. It’s not hard to get someone tired. Just head to your local box gym group class where the “instructor” is screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs.

When it comes to strength, most people typically think of the big three: squat, bench press, and deadlift.

When adding accessory exercises to help improve strength, I am looking at ways to help enhance what you might be struggling with in the big three.

Getting stuck at the bottom of the deadlift? Let’s add some chains or bands.

Can’t lock out on a bench press? You’re going to do some floor press.

Folding forward during the squat? How about adding a pause at the bottom.

Exercise selection doesn’t need to be anything extremely extravagant. Be smart about the exercises chosen and pick accessories that compliment what’s most important to you.

Not many people get ripped and shredded while gaining strength by opting for insane exercises.

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